Dressed in designer labels from head to toe but at a fraction of the cost, model Ashley Stetts is intent on saving the world—and a dollar—one dress at a time.

ashley stetts
Ashley Stetts enjoying one of the many free pleasures the city has to offer: going for a walk on beautiful Miami Beach.

It’s the moment all models dream of. The first, high-profile magazine cover that sends their career skyrocketing into the stratosphere. For Miami-based model Ashley Stetts, that was the November/December 2005 cover of Women’s Health. But then came the paycheck. “I got paid $250 for that cover,” says Stetts. While the shoot itself hardly made her wealthy, it spawned an idea that has made her rich in other ways. Thus, thefrugalmodel.com was born.

“Saving money never looked so good” is Stetts’s mantra, both on the blog and in life. From buying on Groupon to bidding on DVF dresses on eBay, Stetts lives the lifestyle she preaches, instructing consumers how “to sell their stuff on eBay or buy stuff on Craigslist. Sometimes people avoid these resources because they don’t know how. I make it easy.”

Wearing half-priced Herve Leger is not a practice often seen here on the Bal Harbour and Design District decked fashionistas of Miami, but Stetts says, “I don’t care about what people are going to think of me.” She is speaking to a larger audience.

That attitude is something she was taught at a very young age, growing up in Toronto. “My dad didn’t make a lot of money,” she says. “He was a single dad, in his 30s raising a young girl, and never worried about status. That was a huge lesson for me, to never be embarrassed.” While she admits they might have gone to extremes to save a buck by adopting practices such as reusing paper towels—“we would use it, shove it underneath the Windex bottle, and use it again the next time”—it set the groundwork for a life’s worth of saving money. “Every little dollar counts. One of my favorite quotes is ‘A small leak will sink a great ship.’”

One of her earliest memories of saving money came at the discount grocery stores of Toronto, where they charge 10 cents a bag for your groceries. “Or at no cost you can use the box crates that the food is packaged and delivered in. We would carry the food out to our car in those crates,” she says.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and that frugal childhood has made Stetts an expert in the world of saving money, penning columns for the Huffington Post, among others, and with appearances on shows like Good Morning America.

Posing for Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Shape, Fitness, and Cosmopolitan, the work was semi-constant, but being a model, Stetts never met a bag or a pair of shoes she didn’t love. And that gets expensive. “You have to look high end if you want to book a high-end job.” The shopping part came easy. “Miami has Loehmann’s and T.J. Maxx. Loehmann’s has everything—like my favorite, Vince sweaters.”

But this city also has something money can’t buy. “The atmosphere of Miami—being by the beach and being able to go for walks allows me to have more time to think,” she says. “I built the blog as a hobby. But now I am realizing the value of it and building a brand as a money-saving expert. I don’t know where that’s going to take me; I’m still learning. But I do love Miami.” And that is priceless.

Like what you're reading? Get it delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up now for our newsletters >>